Matchday 13 – Wednesday, 26th June 1996

SEMI-FINALS

Wembley, 75,862

GERMANY   (1)   1   (Kuntz 16)
ENGLAND   (1)   1   (Shearer 3)

GERMANY: Kopke; Sammer; Reuter, Helmer (Bode), Babbel, Ziege; Eilts, Freund (Strunz); Moller, Scholl (Hassler); Kuntz
ENGLAND: Seaman; Southgate, Adams, Pearce; Anderton, Platt, Ince, Gascoigne, McManaman; Shearer, Sheringham

So to the most anticipated game in England since the 1966 World Cup Final against West Germany. Since then, the two sides had met 13 times with England winning just two. The most famous occasion since was the World Cup Semi-Final in Turin in 1990. West Germany, as they were then, won on penalties. From that match, Gascoigne, Platt and Pearce were survivors for England. For Germany, none of the starting eleven in this match played then. But Klinsmann, Reuter and Hassler all had, and they were on the bench.

The prize was a place in the European Championship Final, a first for England. Both teams knew who they would be up against. The rank outsiders, the Czech Republic. England was expectant.

The side had been good for the first half against the Swiss, the second half against the Scots and perfect for the whole game against the Dutch. Then came the Spanish. England stuttered, fluffed their lines in parts and seemed to let the occasion get to them. But this time, luck went their way. Possibly more than any other England team has experienced before or since. Could they raise themselves once again? Oh, what a story if they could beat the Germans.

On a balmy Wednesday evening in June, the stadium was packed, the atmosphere electric with millions glued to their screens up and down the country. Would the players be able to put on a show worthy of the hype?

Venables was forced into another change. Ince was back after missing the Quarter-Final through suspension. But now Gary Neville was suspended. It was tough on the young Manchester United full-back, who’d been impressive throughout. He was certainly praying for an England win, if only to have a crack at the Final. Venables chose to keep David Platt, who’d replaced Ince against Spain. So, with three at the back he now had three in midfield, accustomed to the role. It might just give them the control they’d experienced in the second half against Scotland when Redknapp played alongside Ince and Gascoigne. They had to get Gascoigne more into the game this time.

German coach, Bertie Vogts, had to shuffle his pack, too. Fredi Bobic and Jurgen Klinsmann were missing, so he plumped for Stefan Kuntz as the lone striker with Scholl and Moller just off him. Scholl had played no part in the group stages but had impressed against Croatia. Steffen Freund also came in to shore up the midfield to combat the English threat.

Of course, talk of suspensions was apt given a further card would mean sitting out the Final, if their team got there. For England, Adams, Southgate, Shearer and Sheringham were all one card away. For Germany, Moller, Sammer, Reuter, Ziege and Kuntz were on the edge too.

England made the running immediately. Pearce’s left-wing cross into the box was headed clear by Ziege. Ince let it bounce up off his chest then looped a volley from outside the box. The German ‘keeper, Kopke punched it over the bar. He possibly could’ve held it but chose to punch. The corner was taken by Gascoigne. He floated it to the near post where Adams flicked it on. Shearer had dropped his marker, Babbel, and headed it in. England 1-0

It was a dream start for England and their supporters. Calls of ‘it’s coming home’ filled the stadium and Shearer now had five in five. It took him 23 matches to score his first five for his country.

England were buoyant. But gradually Germany took the sting out of the game by just passing the ball around, giving everyone a touch.

Southgate made a couple of decent interventions and then on 16 minutes the Germans were level. A slick move involving Ziege on the left-wing, and Moller just inside. He played Helmer in. The centre-back then played it across the six-yard box and Kuntz was quickest to react and steered it past Seaman for the equaliser. 1-1.

The game was now back to a stalemate. The Germans had done well to repel the English threat, and now their opponents were back on the back foot, they stroked the ball around very well.

Anderton crossed from the right but Shearer just couldn’t quite get his header on target as it went over.

For all the possession, the Germans hadn’t really threatened Seaman, other than the goal. England looked quite comfortable at the back.

On the half-hour mark, England forced another corner, this time on the right. Anderton took it and played it to the edge of the area where Sheringham hit it first time on the turn. Reuter cleared it close to the line and the danger had gone.

The rest of the half was a set pattern with England having most of the possession, trying to work out a way to unpick the German defence. The Germans were seemingly happy to sit back.

Then with four minutes to the break, Anderton got away down the right. He crossed into the area where Shearer rose up well to get his head to it. He met it well but it drifted just wide. Would’ve been a great time to score but it was not to be.

As half time emerged you could just see the complete contrast in the game from the other Semi-Final earlier in the day. This was played at a far better pace, with more passion and atmosphere. Plus, there were a couple of goals. The half ended 1-1 and with England having the better of the closing third of the half, the fans could have great reason to be hopeful.

No changes for either side for the second period and England were soon into their stride. They had a free-kick wide on the left. Gascoigne took it but it was easily defended.

The Germans just seemed happy to sit back. Or perhaps this was a measure of how they were set up. With just Kuntz up front, much of the attacking came from deep. Ziege and Helmer were especially keen to get forward if they could. But Anderton had come more into it down England’s right and this forced the two Germans back.

Ten minutes after the break, the congested midfield suddenly seemed to open up for Ince. He raced forward, almost surprised to find himself so much room. When 20 yards out he unleashed a shot but it went over. It kept the crowd eager.

Then on the hour, the Germans showed their threat. They moved the ball around well down the left. Eilts ventured forward for virtually the first time in the match. He pulled the ball back and Helmer curled a left-footed shot just over. It was a warning for England. They needed to make their possession tell.

Three minutes later Gascoigne got the crowd going by beating a couple of players and getting to the byline. His cross was cleared but it certainly raised the atmosphere a notch or two.

England were definitely the more threatening, yet there was always a feeling the Germans could step up a gear if they wanted to. They had a worrying moment when Babbel appeared to lose control of the ball on the edge of his area, with Shearer hovering. But he recovered well.

With 20 minutes to go, Gascoigne again brought the crowd to its feet when he ran at the defence. He played a one-two with Anderton and just as he looked to be clear of the last man, Helmer stuck out a foot and cleared the ball.

As the final ten minutes approached, the Germans had their best spell of the half. They were unable to test Seaman but during this passage of play Moller received a booking which meant he would miss the Final if his team got there. The crowd liked that.

There was a scary moment for England in the closing minutes when Ince gave away possession on the halfway line. Kuntz and Moller tried to counter but Southgate was once again in the right place at the right time. Then in the first minute of time added on, Platt got forward to shoot from the edge of the area but it was deflected wide. The corner was then dealt with by the Germans.

The Hungarian referee finally blew for full time. We now had our fourth golden goal of the tournament. England had been the better team in the second half but with the prospect of one goal to win it, maybe both sides would be a bit more attacking than we’d seen from this format so far.

Within two minutes of the extra period, we almost had our first golden goal. McManaman got away down the right. He crossed into the six-yard box and Anderton, stretching, almost horizontal with the ground, managed to hit the ball against the post. He was a whisker away from winning it for England. But the ball bounced clear.

Almost immediately, the Germans went down the other end and a cross was fizzed across England’s six-yard box but no one could get on the end of it. Drama early on at both ends.

As England attacked again, the Germans managed to nick it and Moller ran forward with three defenders in front of him. He reached about 25 yards out and fired a shot which Seaman pushed away for a corner.

Just as the crowd came to terms with that, the corner was headed in by Kuntz. Had the Germans won it? No, the ref blew for a foul in the area. The goal was disallowed. Suddenly the atmosphere around Wembley was turned up to 11.

The Germans, smelling their chance, pressed forward again and won another corner but England defended it. This was even more exciting than the 90 minutes.

Then after eight minutes, England had another agonising moment. Shearer got clear down the right of the area. He crossed into the six-yard box and Gascoigne was there to steer it in. But no! He just couldn’t stretch his leg far enough to get a proper connection on it. It was excruciating. Replays showed Gazza had anticipated the ‘keeper getting a hand on it, and possibly pushing it into his path. But the ‘keeper didn’t get a touch and neither did Gascoigne really. Don’t forget this was the format where as soon as a team scores they’ve won.

Last time Gazza played Germany he was in tears having been received a booking to suspend him from the World Cup Final. What a moment it would’ve been had he been able to score.

Then, as the halfway point in extra time loomed, Gascoigne again got forward into the area. McManaman chipped it to him but it was just beyond him and went out for a goal kick. Within seconds Anderton had a shot which just sneaked wide. This was stirring stuff but still no goal.

Fifteen minutes remained. Could it match the previous fifteen?

The first chance fell to the Germans. A neat move on the edge of the area as Ziege played a one-two with Moller and as it looked like the German might just dink it over Seaman, he put it wide.

England struggled to get going after the break. They did have a couple of occasions where the Germans pushed up to play the offside trap and England were nearly in.

With six minutes to go, McManaman broke clear but he couldn’t find anyone in the area and the ‘keeper gratefully held onto the ball.

With sixty seconds to go Platt looped a header over the defence. It looked like Anderton would get a shot in but Eilts was there to clear. Penalties loomed large in the minds of the players and the crowd.

Eventually, the referee blew for time, and we were to have penalties for the second Semi-Final. England had some gilt-edged chances in the first period of extra time, Germany also had their chances yet the two sides couldn’t be separated.

Just as in Turin in Italia ’90, it would be settled by penalties.

England were to go first and up stepped the reliable Alan Shearer. He hit it with conviction and into the roof of the net to the ‘keeper’s left. Kopke went right. England 1-0.

Thomas Hassler was first for Germany. He’d played in that Turin match. This time he tucked it right into the corner beyond Seaman’s right hand. 1-1.

Next up was David Platt. In Turin he scored one of England’s penalties. This time he chose the same side Shearer had. Kopke guessed right this time but couldn’t stop it. England lead 2-1.

Thomas Strunz was next for Germany and he was confident too. He hit it high to Seaman’s left, but he’d gone right. 2-2.

Stuart Pearce, who’d raised the roof in the Quarter-Final a week ago, stepped up. He put it away with ease. Any memories of Turin were banished. Hit right into the corner to the ‘keeper’s right, with Kopke going the other way. England lead 3-2.

Stefan Reuter was the third taker for Germany. He put it to Seaman’s left and the ‘keeper guessed right. It was a bit like McAllister’s kick earlier in the tournament, but this time Seaman was just under it. 3-3.

Gascoigne was next. England were using the same players who won the shootout against Spain a week earlier. He stuck it right in the corner to Kopke’s left. 4-3/

Ziege next for Germany. Left-footed he put it to the ‘keeper’s left. Seaman went that way but couldn’t get a hand on it. 4-4.

Sheringham next. In the shootout earlier in the day, France missed their fifth kick. All the pressure now on the Tottenham man. But as with all the kickers so far, he was also confident. Put it the same side as Gascoigne with the same result as Kopke went right. 5-4.

Every kick from now on for Germany was effectively sudden death. Miss and you’re out.

Kuntz was the fifth for Germany. He put his to Seaman’s left with the Arsenal ‘keeper going right. 5-5

Ten penalties, no one missed. Incredible.

Then up stepped Gareth Southgate. The young Villa defender had had a good game. But his penalty wasn’t struck with conviction and Kopke got down to save. Pearce was straight to console him, but it didn’t make any difference. Having been nervous wrecks for the half an hour extra time and so far through the shootout, England fans fears were now realised.

Andreas Moller had the chance to win it and send his team through to a Final he would be suspended for. He scored. In the heat of the moment it’s easy to be critical of his celebration, seemingly taunting the Wembley crowd. But in years to come Michael Ballack was applauded for his performance in a Semi-Final once he knew he couldn’t play in the next game.

Germany had won. A quite enthralling game, full of drama and two sets of players who’d given it their all. The golden goal period was the best so far, with both teams trying to win it. What a contrast to the other Semi-Final.

The Germans scored six out of six penalties and you can’t argue with that. England suffered penalty despair for another tournament at the hands of the Germans.

The match was a watershed for Terry Venables who was replaced by Glen Hoddle straight after the tournament. It was also the last time David Platt put on an England shirt.

The Final would now be between Germany and the Czech Republic. A ‘repeat’ of sorts, of the 1976 Final although that was between West Germany and Czechoslovakia.